Follow  AmateurNikon on Facebook  Follow  AmateurNikon on Google+  Follow  AmateurNikon on Pinterest  Susbcribe to RSS/email

Monday, April 27, 2015

Doing HDR the Right Way

Actually, the title is not right - Amateur Nikon is not about objective truths (I don't believe in such a thing), and there is more than one way to good results. Perhaps a better title would have been "Doing HDR another Way".

I have to admit, I feel very strongly about HDR processing. It is a pretty telling example of a powerful tool misused and abused to the point of tedium. Admit it, how many times have you seen a photo online that looks like this:

This result is so hideous, I can't post it online without marking it with a big red 'X'. And yet, you see photos like this disturbingly often.

For the life of me, I can't understand why would someone process an image like that and like it. I assume they like it, if they post it online and share it with friends. And who am I to tell them or you if you should like something or not. If you process your HDRs like this and you like them, well, all the power to you.

But take a look at this, and let me know if you like it any better:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Nikon 36-72mm f/3.5 Series E Review

Another Series E lens review for today. As you might recall from my previous reviews, I generally like Series E lenses. They're very decent optically, they're small and light, cheap, and although they were meant as consumer lenses back in the days (E=economy), their construction quality easily matches today's plastic lenses. So, how does the 36-72mm perform, and is it worth having one?

+ mechanical quality is fine, better than most consumer lenses today.
+ constant f/3.5 aperture
+ aperture ring means it's easier to use with e.g. mirrorless cameras or macro extension tubes

- very limited range...
- ...and not wide enough for DX (let alone even smaller sensors, like Nikon 1)
- optical quality not as great as you'd hope; unpredictable bokeh, susceptible to flare, weak corners.

Sharpness in the center is OK, particularly if you stop down, but the bokeh is less-than-stellar
Intended Users
Great for:
  • macro with extension tubes could be an interesting application (although only as an emergency solution)
  • cheap midrange zoom for old film cameras
  • looks nice on the shelf; paperweight (harsh, I know, but it's the truth)
Not for:
  • if you want a midrange zoom and you have $50, the AF 28-80 is already a more sense-making option
  • moving subjects (manual focus)
  • any demanding photographic situation. This lens comes with too many compromises.

Another idea of what to expect in terms of bokeh.

Final Verdict
Sadly, this is not as great an E Series lens as the rest. The f/3.5 constant aperture is nice, but the zoom range is too limited (and too long; a 24-50mm range would be more interesting). Optically it's only OK, with reasonable image quality in the center and stopped-down, but with distracting bokeh and weak corners. I'd pass.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How to Enjoy Photography (and Take Better Photos at the Same Time!)

So, you  bought a DSLR camera with a kit lens. Later you maybe  also got a second lens - a fast prime or a telezoom. Maybe you got an external flash. Then maybe you upgraded to another camera. New cameras, new lenses, new equipment. You also see (rather stressed) that no matter how much money you pour into this hobby, there always seems to be something better. Your photos also don't seem to be getting truly better (at least you feel disappointed and often disillusioned).
So, what's going on here? Well, sadly, if you recognize yourself in the description above, you have fallen victim to the dreaded marketing beast. Nikon (or Canon, or anyone who else) wants you to believe that your photography will never be as good as it could be unless if you get [insert most expensive camera] together with [most expensive lens].

You see, this is not unlike the fashion industry. Do you remember the last time you went to a shopping mall (or were dragged there by your girlfriend)? Do you remember all the clothes, all the giant posters of slim, athletic, beautiful female models or the lean, muscular, trendy-looking male ones? The unconscious, implied message is: "You need to buy this in order to be as good-looking". So, you buy it. Then you put it on, and it might be alright, but you just feel it doesn't look as great as it looked on the poster. You feel bad about yourself, and off you go, trying to buy something else, something that will make you feel great.

Same thing with cameras and lenses. Here is a little secret: A camera is only as great as the person behind it. To adapt something Thom Hogan had once said about the violinist Itzhak Perlman, I'm sure Jimi Hendrix with a cheap guitar and a Chinese-made amp would not sound as great as Jimi Hendrix with his Fender. But what keeps me from sounding like Hendrix is not that I don't have a Fender.

Here is a concrete list of advice for you. Follow the tips below and your photography is bound to get better, you will have more fun in the process, and you won't have to spend a dime!

1) Focus on what you already have
If a D7000 and the 18-140 lens is all you have, then use that. If a D40 and the 18-55 is all you have, then use that. Stop whining about needing a $1400 lens or an FX camera to make better photos, and make some great photos with what you have. Here's an image I made using a D40 and the very cheap 35mm f/1.8 (a combo that, used, nowadays costs about $150-$170):

It's not about the technical perfection of this image (I just love the crispness and detail); it's about affect (I very humbly suggest that you take a look at this book). Seeing this image will always remind me the scent of burning wood, camping by a peaceful lake, having sauna and drinking beer. Creating an image that can convey emotions, thoughts, and memories, is irrelevant to the camera or lens you use.